Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Hang onto Your Ghosts

Hang onto Your Ghosts

Pale dust trails a late sixties dream-Cadillac.

Small town.  Sweet & sour squirrel stew,
sundown tangled in silvery clouds,
scarecrows with cracked broomstick legs:
a flickering nightmare
in chapel-yellow candlelight.

Soft rain falls on a dusty road.

Ancient men hunch over cards.
Musty curtains.  Blue Linoleum floor.
One draws aces and eights.
Bottle of rye.
Don't worry.  It's them
short drives home
what kill people.

Summer.  Big night sky.
Bones of thought.
Moonlight in a ranchers's
crystal stem glass.
Oak-hard moodiness.
Painting of a ketchup-red horse.
French linen... ransacked heart.

Dream-rain, gust of wind
across a dozing hound
wedged between shadows.
A shuttered face twitches.
Vanilla-scented dream:
a quick-talking woman,
unkempt long ebony hair,
black currant lipstick.



Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Situation Only Appears Familiar

The Situation Only Appears Familiar

Our scabland has fallen from the moon...
a meal some Revelations monster refused to eat.

Sitting at a window of a tumbledown
beef country hotel, you want something to happen,

Hitched to stumbling ways, the dying goes on...
with every call out of the alfalfa-green phone.

Carried forward:
an attachment for self-reprisals.

Gold sun, honey skin, kisses... love-groans.
You're only good, she giggled, for one thing.

You ran off too many sweet girls,
using Edvard Munch's notion

about paintings left in blizzards,
It does  them good to fend for themselves.

Vegas: hundreds of tequila bottles back.
The Great Plains?  Countless whiskey ditches ago.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

HIGH PLAINS FANDANGO: A New Red Shuttleworth Play

High Plains Fandango
a new Red Shuttleworth play

Directed by Tom Loughlin

A World Premiere
State University New York - Fredonia

February 24-25-26, 
March 1-2-3,2012

High Plains Fandango, Red Shuttleworth's new play, opened on February 24, 2012, as part of the Walter Gloor Mainstage Series at State University of New York - Fredonia.  It was directed by Tom Loughlin at the Bartlett Theatre.

The cast was Kelsey Rispin as "Waitress," Clayton Howe as "O'Garr," Tony Taylor as "Ken Adams," Cassandra Giovine as "Cinthia," Claire Elise Walton as "DQ," Andrew Albigese as "Moss," Jessica Drew-Cates as "Aquinas," Nicholas Nieves as "Father Ben," Caitlin Molloy as "Isabelle Roche," Sean Marciniak as "Louis Roche," and Jonathan Dimaria as "John Hooley."

Clayton Howe ("O'Garr") and Cassandra Giovine ("Cinthia")

High Plains Fandango takes on the coming threat of water privatization in the face of national and international water shortages.  The American West, long subject to extraction economies, booms and busts, faces a not-so double-edged Bowie knife, progress (the beloved mantra boosterism and of the cancer cell) and full-bore despoilation.

High Plains Fandango received development and a public reading by the Echo Theater Company in Los Angeles.  The reading, directed by Ethan Phillips, was held at The Zephyr Theatre on March 14, 2011, with the following cast: Tara Karsian, Vaughn Armstrong, Gigi Bermingham, Wallace Bruce, Alana Dietze, Christopher Shaw, Anabella Price, Steve Hofvendahl, Paul Lieber, Rena Strober, and Rod McLachlan.  Red Shuttleworth is grateful to the Echo Theater Company!  Special thanks to Ethan Phillips!

Red Shuttleworth

High Plains Fandango is available as a paperback book (issued by Humanitas Media Publishing in 2015) and can be located on Amazon:

Red Shuttleworth's plays have been presented widely, including at Churchill Arts Council (Fallon, NV), Foothill Theatre (Nevada City, CA), Kearney State University, Spirit of the Horse Theatre (St. Paul, MN), Sundance Playwrights Lab, Sun Valley Festival of New Western Drama, and the Tony Award-winning Utah Shakespearean Festival.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

I Met Someone Who Knows You

I Met Someone Who Knows You

Four days of driving.  Just to be gone.
Rockabilly road signs with bullet holes.

Or: a fifties movie about a gunfighter with a tired voice.
Price on his head.  Clouds.  Blood.  Dead trees.

Small town south of I-90: platinum-blond waitress in pink jeans
says, I met someone who knows you.
Yeah... and barb wire headlights.

Blood-eyed TV preacher can't admit it's all distant
thunder and goodbyes.  Spike-haired barmaid wants to know
right away if you'll sleep with her.  Can of Copenhagen to go.

Starbuck... Dodge... Dusty... Lacrosse...Hooper... Starbuck:
a Snake River loop.  Flesh-eating black & white cattle,
swaying dehydrated roadside coyote, distant thick-white smoke.

Dry heat 100.  Yellow potato chip sunrise.  The evening sun screams:
thick fields of green corn for gas tanks... a world of starvation.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Aren't You Forgetting Something?

Aren't You Forgetting Something?

The belly of the photo album has gone bad,
sepia-washing a 1962 rhododendron dell.

Why, little darlin' asked, do you declare envy
for any man who owns dozens of fenced goats?

It was a thin, wind-blown year in that country of ceramic
blue flowers encircling ancient tombs.  Others' dreams are boring.

Whirling dust and row upon row of unmarked pioneer graves
no one could see.  The docent said, You might check back later.

The artist wore a man's XXL T-shirt, made little crack-up giggles
as she glued together sheets of wind-blown cardboard she had collected.

She also had a trove of tin cans and medicine bottles from ghost towns.
She was making glitter-red cardboard apples, ... so delicious, no?

The fever and its twin fell upon me.  Our room faced clanging flag poles
at the front of the motel.  To be tranquil is to be dead... price tag on a toe.

The sparsely stocked Rite Aid store was out of photo albums.
The artist with the baggy T-shirt petted herself, scared the clerk.

If we had caught a train home, a pasta-eating couple from Des Moines
would've been seated at our table, would've gassed-on about Jesus' love.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Happy Birthday, Alain Robbe-Grillet

Happy Birthday, Alain Robbe-Grillet
( August 18, 1922 - February 18, 2008)

The girl crept into the bright water.
She had not eaten in two weeks.
Her skin was reddish, as if from slaps.

The witnesses contradicted each other.
Oh, no, Clarice had curly brown hair...
and she skipped into the water with a giggle.
The old woman from the old hotel surrounded
by half-dead pines went to the police,
She was no Clarice.  Hannah had short-croppped
blonde hair and then, when it grew out....
There was a man with Hannah, a fancy one
who walked as if from a lion's crouch.

The police collected as much surveillance tape
as they could from the resort and village shops.
The girl was asleep, bare-breasted... or already dead.
Some tapes showed she had been dragged
from the boardwalk, positioned on her back.

Not eaten in weeks?  The resort manager hopped
from one foot to another, I fed Daphne myself.
Sweet 'n' sour rabbit, buttery English muffins.

A girl caught sleeping in another's BMW
was hauled in for questioning.  She was asked
to remove her bikini top... for indentification purposes.
She said it was her sister who was counted
as missing, But I think she caught a bus home.
Some say we appear as identical twins,
but I'm two years older than she is.

The alleged sister was hard-questioned
about possessing razor blades.
When the tapes were shown to the sister,
she claimed that she was the performer
in at least half of them... the ones nearest
the lake.  The police chief clipped his fingernails,
smiled, asked the girl to repeat her account.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Gary Gildner, Poet - Fictioneer - Memoirist

Gary Gildner
Winside, Nebraska, 1986

Gary Gildner is a nationally esteemed writer.  His debut collection of poems, First Practice, was extraordinary with rare lyric virility... and sure impressed a trainload of young poets, a lot of whom were studying in MFA programs.  Curiously, or not so curiously, Gildner's academic credentials were outside the pretentious grad student creative writing play rooms.  Gildner, athletically gifted, trained to be a sports journalist at Michigan State University... where his pals included poets Dave Kelly and Jim Harrison.

Gildner has published nineteen books of poetry, fiction, memoir, and an anthology of Iowa poets.  Among those works, new Gildner readers might start with:

The Crush (short stories), The Ecco Press, 1983
Blue Like the Heavens: New & Selected Poems,
     University of Pittsburgh Press, 1984
A Week in South Dakota (short stories), Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 1987
The Second Bridge (novel), Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 1987
The Warsaw Sparks (memoir), University of Iowa Press, 1990
Somewhere Geese Are Flying: New and Selected Stories,
     Michigan State University Press, 2004

Gildner has been the recipent of the National Magazine Award for Fiction, Pushcart Prizes in Fiction and in Non-Fiction, two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, the Robert Frost Fellowship, the William Carlos Williams Poetry Prize, the Theodore Roethke Poetry Prize, and the Iowa Poetry Prize.

He has been a Senior Fulbright Lecturer to Poland and to Czechoslovakia. 

Do they still play baseball in Poland?  Gildner, while on his 1987 Fulbright to Poland, became one of the pioneers of Polish baseball, coaching the brand new Warsaw Sparks.  His memoir at that experience is beautiful, hilarious, insightful, and moving.

Gary Gildner (powder-blue sweat pants and bat)
with his Warsaw Sparks, 1987

I met Gary Gildner in late 1974, thanks to poet Dave Kelly.  A selfless true friend to many writers, Gary is the kind of  guy who, if he's in the car with you on a freeway, and a tire blows... well, Gary will insist on changing the tire. 

He goes to bat for other writers... works to get them published, to gain recognition for them.  Gary has enjoyed more of a mainstream, Literati, Eastern Lit. Establishment Career than I have. A few times he's tried to get me into the good graces of editors of some prominent journals that, gosh, with the exception of work by Gildner and a handful of other writers, published, and still publish, tweed-twit and feminist anal leakage.  He repeatedly, though I did not ask for it, nominated poems of mine for the Pushcart Prize, which is, at bedrock, re-publication of the nominated piece in a perennial series of horridly boring anthologies. Each year, upon receiving Gildner-inspired nomination, for over two damned decades, I was compelled to write savage letters to that pile of dung's chief editor.  All that help aside, I have deeply appreciated Gary's kindness and good will, particularly when he got poems of mine into magazines where my work would never, under common circumstances, never appear. 

Gary is a writer of pure, intense, enduring focus.  No distractions.  If it's not about getting the work done, Gary is disinterested... no silly distractions allowed.  Back in the late 1980's, Gary got a hell of a grand academic gig somewhere.  He gets a lot of those.  At the time he was teaching at Drake University in Des Moines.  Somehow Gary conned his colleagues at Drake into hiring me as his one-semester replacement... and we (girlfriend and kids) got to live in his magnificent house in Des Moines, Iowa.  Gary's home was so large, at least compared to the ranch houses we were used to, that he warned us to keep the temperature in the house no higher than 59-degrees... or our heat bill would bankrupt us.  January and February are rather cold in Des Moines.  At some point during our tenure in his home, Gary returned for a snappy visit.  We had, golly, damaged a few items.  Our young boy, Luke, spilled an entire bottle of India ink on Gary's bed... and stained the high class mattress.  We showed Gary, with apologies, and told him we'd get him a new mattress.  Amazingly, Gary looked down at the enormous black Rorschach, stared for at least a minute, then smiled, That's always been there.  My girlfriend and I looked at each other, our four kids looked at each other, What?   Then we toured his lovely, spacious backyard.  When Gary had decamped in early January for his residency, he left behind three brand new, never-used, spotless (you could cook large animals in them) aluminum garbage cans.  On some days there wasn't anything better than to have a couple brews and go outside and practice my roping skills... and one can was roped many a time... and jerked around by the imaginary saddle horn on my imaginary Des Moines cow pony.  Gary looked it, said, when we told him we would buy a new replacement can, That's the way it's been... think a car hit it on a garbage pick-up day.  No distractions from whatever Gary has on his mind... toward writing.

Gary Gildner and Red Shuttleworth
west of Norfolk, Nebraska, 1983

Poet Kirk Robertson

Red Shuttleworth and Kirk Robertson
Fallon, Nevada
July 1999

Kirk Roberston ( poet, artist, editor) published twenty-two poetry collections.  An arts legend, Robertson is a spare, tight, lyric bard of the fecund minimum.  William Kittredge said, What we should want is more artists like Kirk Robertson who keep poking holes in the facades we put up between ourselves and the emotional possibilities inherent in our lives and the lives of our communities.

Kirk Robertson has been inducted into the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame. 

I knew and appreciated Kirk Robertson, both as a poet and as a friend, for decades.  We had a few drinks along the way.  And probably no one, at least no one I know, can speak about music with as much erudition as Robertson.

Just Past Labor Day by Kirk Robertson

What a wonderful collection of poems: Just Past Labor Day.  Get it if you can.  At least have your library order it through inter-library loan.  Or see if you can order it online from someone... new (yes!) or used; you'll thank me.  The dastardly director of University of Nevada Press allowed this treasure of vital, important, great writing to go out of print. 

Kirk Robertson
Fallon, Nevada
July 1999

And Kirk Robertson's New Poetry Collection,
How the Light Gets In:
New and Collected Poems 1969-2014,
published in July of 2014,
is available from Black Rock Press
at the University of Nevada at Reno!!!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

While We're Waiting

While We're Waiting

Tell me, he said, phoning from prison, what's not up for grabs?

During the intermission of a lecture on the Dust Bowl,
the audience was treated to rasberry-flavored protein smoothies.

Who wrapped bacon on the rungs of the social ladder?

By some estimates, there are no fewer than a thousand
rickety-boned, frequently raped, American backpackers
currently in the jails and madhouses of Thailand.

Tonight's wind is blowing the sound of barking coyotes
to neighbor's... a mile south... and I am unreasonably jealous.

A boxer I met at a run-down gym when I was a boy
foamed at the armpits from bar soap used in place of deoderant.

Are we now too old to hike the 40 Mile Desert?

Am I a Hollywood Insider because I know that the girl
playing the guitar, pretty half-smile, in that HBO movie
keeps sleek with a diet of carrots and boiled broccoli?

Please, kids, do not dance atop the goddamned dishwasher.

The priest yelped, The devil carries a black clipboard...
and he's cheering for you, for all your pleaure-taking.

How much of my desire for her was related to her
sweaty, post-jogging, skin tasting like lemon meringue pie?

Since I had never seen one, my Hollywood friend
drove me to a studio apartment in The Valley.
The residents wore sandals, kept an enormous TV on mute,
spoke of bleached hair, boob jobs they admired.
There was a small backyard, blown-over plastic garden chairs.

Once upon a time I soaked my fists in salt water.
There certainly were a slew of guys worth sucker-punching.

Yes, I am wary of chubby women sporting
sterling silver kitty-cat brooches on sweaters.
At least more wary of them than their half-bald,
pot-bellied husbands... walking sacks of canned TV laughter.

Syrian raincoat: kevlar bulletproof vest.  In short supply.

The barista in Burbank, noticing who I was with,
asked if I was who she thought I might be.

I am a displaced northern Nevada alkali lake... 
set to make a comeback.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Kay Boyle

Kay Boyle
in her San Francisco home on Frederick Street
(in the 1970's)

Kay Boyle (February 19, 1902 - December 27, 1992) was a distinguished American writer who published nearly fifty books (novels, collections of short fiction, poetry, and non-fiction).  A ferociously independant woman and writer, Boyle, as Leah Garchik noted, was "always quick to approve or disapprove."  Boyle was in Paris with James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, Ernest Hemingway, William Carlos Williams, Robert McAlmon, and a raft of other writers.

A good place to start with Kay Boyle is Fifty Stories (Doubleday, 1980) and/or Collected Poems of Kay Boyle (Copper Canyon Press, 1991).  

For nearly two decades, Kay Boyle taught at San Francisco State University.  The most fortunate student writers had her for "directed writing," which she taught in her home on Frederick Street.  I was among the lucky, though I have no idea, to this day, why she chose to help me with my poetry, because she had made it clear, just before I became her student, that "white male writers have nothing more to say."  When I finally asked about this view, she smiled, "I wasn't speaking of you."

The first semester that I studied with her, once a week meetings, she spent the first nine weeks lecturing on Paris, praising those she liked, damning those she found distasteful or boorish or just talentless.  On our first meeting she asked what I drank.  "Irish whiskey," I said.  I settled for bourbon.  She drank what she always drank, Dubonnet.  After that Kay kept a bottle of Power's Irish Whiskey for me.  I'd get half-sloshed and she would lecture on the evils of drink for writers.  On the other hand, when Kay got going on why writers must not get flabby, must always be lean, that obese writers were awful, she praised my athletic appearance... saying that it signaled a marvelous writing future.

Although she widened my circle of influences, her writing was far from the turf where I could work.  It's probably natural for student writers to be strongly influenced by mentors... to consciously or unconsciously imitate them.  I had not the talent or sensibility for that.

Ever generous to her students, Kay located opportunities for them.  One afternoon she announced that it was time for us to do a joint poetry reading.  I was astonished... having carried the notion that Kay was, essentially, tolerating my rather soft and weak poems.  But read together we did, along with William Dickey (my other mentor), Jim Hubert (also a grad student... with a poem in Esquire, Barbara Riddick, and Gene Ruggles.  We had a marvelous night, with an overflow audience, at the Parkside Public Library in San Francisco.

If  not for Kay Boyle and her tiny camera, no photographs would have been taken at my oldest daughter's baptism.  Kay insisted, too, on being the first person to give us a gift for the forthcoming infant (a blue baby rattle) and, if memory serves, gave Kate and me diapers, baby powder, and many stern lectures on child-raising.

* I snapped these photographs (in the 1970's) as Kay talked to my wife, Kate.  The negatives were rediscovered recently... found in a box in a closet as I searched for old poetry notebooks.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Poet Dave Kelly and Red Shuttleworth

Red Shuttleworth and Dave Kelly
Lake Michigan, 1976

Few poets blasted into the seventies with the firepower of Dave Kelly.  His Instructions for Viewing a Solar Eclipse (Wesleyan University Press, 1972), a dark-dark-dark sardonic take on the world, was much too bleak for critics.  But young writers loved Kelly's poems for their keen, dead-on, tough, beautifully wrought portraits of an America leaving the road at ninety, totally out of control.

The cover of Dave Kelly's Instructions for Viewing a Solar Eclipse

Kelly's book had just arrived in book stores.  The night I bought it I stayed up all night... reading it over and over.  A bright new poetry star had appeared in the heavens.  After I wrote a fan letter to Kelly, we began corresponding.  We became friends.  Kelly (and his Michigan State friends and classmates Jim Harrison and Gary Gildner) became a strong poetic influence.

Dave Kelly has not had a commercial or university press book since the appearance of Instructions for Viewing a Solar Eclipse.  His work no longer appeared in the poetry establishment's prominent journals, like Prairie Schooner, Atlantic Monthly and The Nation.  Kelly became a renegade poet of the small press scene.  His poems --bullets and jagged glass-- were not for reading at family Thanksgiving feasts, not if you wanted your mother-in-law to remain civil.

Dave Kelly is the most neglected poet in America... a great poet left out on the least hospitable edge of the frontier, a grim contrarian.

Dave Kelly... 1976

Books and chapbooks by Dave Kelly include:

Dear Nate  (Runcible Spoon, 1969)
Instructions for Viewing a Solar Eclipse  (Wesleyan University Press, 1972)
At a Time  (The Basilisk Press, 1972)
Did You Know They'e Beheading Bill Johnson Today?  (The Stone Press, 1974)
In These Rooms  (The Red Hill Press, 1976)
The Flesh-Eating Horse and Other Sagas  (Bartholomew's Cobble, 1976)
Poems in Season  (Texas Portfolio Press, 1977)
Filming Assassinations  (Ithaca House, 1979)
Northern Letter  (Nebraska Review Chapbooks, 1980)
Great Lakes Cycle  (Steps Inside, 1980)
Talking to Myself  (State Street Press, 1994)
When You Tell Them About Us  (Igneus Press, 2003) 

Dave and Sylvia Kelly
Lake Michigan, 1976

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Emergency Room Check-In, Check-Out, Go Back In

Red Shuttleworth
1974 or 1976

Emergency Room Check-In, Check-Out, Go Back In

Someone's wife in a make-up mask, raccoon-eyed.
She uses a kerchief to wipe fried chicken grease
off her lips and hands, Fence posts  just rolled
lanky off the truck in front of us, ya know.


Alley rats and a burning high desert wind:
Arnold sleeps beside a blue-eyed cow dog
in a cardboard refrigerator box behind the Sears store.
Desolation-slime of the lungs... people should
brush their teeth before leaving behind
half-drunk soda pop cans 'n'bottles.
Their kids in rags, but they got money
for super sizing and salt-rimmed booze.


Sister's wedding was as much fun,
a ritzy-blue urn full of human ashes
out a car window at drunk-sixty.
He was using two waiting room chairs,
one for his butt, one for the foot
he'd dropped a twenty pound barbell on.


At the no-silence-ever tavern across the street
from the hospital, some cops were playing
pool for short stacks of dimes and quarters,
hot for the barmaid in the skinny white dress,
For what... to discover Kleenex in her
Victoria's Secret push-up bra?


As I walked down the streets of Ephrata....
Curt fractured his thinker cave years back
in a wreck with a green-broke horse.
Tonight he's playing a toy drum
with a couple of toothbrushes.
He's a regular: Got spiders in my socks.
Black widows.  Brown recluses.
Need some tweezers.  Need tweezers real quick.

Heavyweight Challenger Ron Lyle in 1975

Ron Lyle, within days of fighting Muhammad Ali
for the Heavyweight Championship of the World
(May 1975, Las Vegas, Nevada)

Ron Lyle, Don King, and Muhammad Ali
(one of the press conferences...
the Tropicana Casino in Las Vegas, May 1975)

Ron Lyle in the locker room of the Las Vegas Convention Center
after losing his bout with Muhammad Ali
for the Heavyweight Championship of the World

Ahead on all three judges scorecards in the 11th round, Lyle took a strong, quick right from Ali, then a number of unanswered punches.  The referee stopped the fight... in what soon became a controversial decision.  Lyle was stunned that the fight was ended despite his being uninjured and fully conscious. 

Ron Lyle fought professionally 51 times, winning 43 of those bouts. 

In the three weeks leading up to the Ali-Lyle fight, I was in Las Vegas, trying to break into freelance boxing journalism.  I managed to place articles and photo's with The Ring and Boxing Illustrated. 
Every morning, until 72-hours from the fight, Ali and Lyle did their roadwork,
rising early for dawn runs on the golf course of the Dunes in Las Vegas.

I ran those pre-fight miles with Lyle and his sparring partners.

I snapped all the photographs presented here.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Muhammad Ali in 1975

Muhammad Ali at the Tropicana Casino
Las Vegas, Nevada, May, 1975

Shortly after regaining the Heavyweight Championship in a brutal bout with George Foreman in Zaire (the Rumble in the Jungle), Muhammad Ali fought Ron Lyle on May 16, 1975 in Las Vegas.  Ali, behind on all three judges' scorecards in the 11th round, stunned Lyle with a right, then threw numerous unanswered punches... and the referee --in a somewhat controversial move-- ended the fight in Ali's favor.

During the three-weeks leading up to the Ali-Lyle bout for the Heavyweight Championship, I was in Las Vegas... struggling to break in as a freelance writer on boxing.  Both The Ring and Boxing Illustrated published pieces of mine from that fight.
Muhammad Ali and Angelo Dundee (Ali's trainer)
at one of the press conferences
leading up to the Ali-Lyle 1975 fight.

These three photographs were taken by Red Shuttleworth.